Voss: Who will Queensland turn to?
Andrew Voss gives his Queensland selection advice for State of Origin II, asks if there is hope for the bottom six teams and gives his views on whether the Bulldogs can turn things around.
Is there hope for the bottom six teams on the ladder?
Okay, Titans, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Knights. Consider this your pep talk.
We have reached halfway in the season, and I'll grant you the outlook doesn't look bright. But…
27 points was good enough to qualify for the playoffs last year and that means that yes, even the Knights are still mathematical hopes of making the Telstra Premiership finals in 2017.
Stretching the hopes even further, let me remind you of the deeds of the Tigers of 2005, and the Eels of 2009 on what they achieved in the second half of those seasons.
After 13 rounds of 2005, the Tim Sheens-coached Tigers had notched only five wins and lost seven. They went on to win 13 of their next 16 and claim the premiership.
Parramatta was on just 11 points after 13 rounds in 2009, and then proceeded to win 11 of their next 15 games to reach the grand final.
Yes folks, where there is life there is hope.
Can the Bulldogs turn it around?
And on to Canterbury we go, as they deserve their own column space.
I declare this is a team, at full strength, still capable of making the finals. But it would mean, based on my number crunching, that they can probably afford only four more losses this season.
I have too much respect for Des Hasler and his finals coaching record to dismiss them. Hasler-coached sides have made the finals in each of the last 12 years.
But while their attack is much maligned, it's a couple of horror scorelines against them this season that leaves the biggest seed of doubt. A 38-0 loss to Penrith last weekend coupled with a 36-0 thrashing at the hands of Manly back in Round 4 is so 'un-Bulldogs'.
Any possible season turnaround has to start either side of their first bye. They play the Dragons in a huge clash on Monday, and have a date in Auckland against the Warriors in Round 16.
Who wins the Grand Final Rematch II?
I'm tipping the Storm to turn the tables on the Sharks after their 11-2 loss at AAMI Park in Round 6.
For Craig Bellamy's team, what a handy competition points buffer it would be for them if they can collect their 11th victory of the season.
However, a Thursday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium with the chance of a bit of wet weather will ensure a hard fought battle. The Sharks have proven a number of times this season that they can come from behind, and that they can find a way to win even when not at their best.
The way things are going as we launch into the second half of the season, there remains a good chance we could have a real rematch of the 2016 grand final come October 1 this year.
Is this the best Super Saturday of the season?
Fox League will have three rippers this week back-to-back, to back!
The Titans clash with the Warriors on the Gold Coast always draws a crowd, and I'm told the response again of NZ fans in Queensland has been sensational. The Warriors haven't been able to get the job done in matches on Australian soil this year but this becomes like a home away from home each season, such is the atmosphere generated.
Then from the Gold Coast, it's off to Bathurst. In the second game we have two sides outside the top eight, but it would be a brave pundit who has dismissed the dangerous Panthers and/or Raiders from their finals calculations.
And from Bathurst, we finish up in Darwin. I don't really know who to tip here as Parramatta tackle North Queensland. I'm excited to be making the trip and given the guarantee of a fast, dry track, this could be the best match of the long weekend.
Who will Queensland turn to in the forwards?
I think it appears certain there will be at least two changes to the Queensland forwards for Game Two of the State of Origin series.
The Titans' Jarrod Wallace, having been 18th man for the series opener, appears a logical inclusion.
I'm not one that is convinced about the possible selection of Cowboys' young gun Coen Hess. Having said that, I'm sure he will play his fair share of Origin footy in the future.
These are some of the backrowers I believe deserve some consideration, and I reckon they could handle the challenge. At the Sharks they have a grand final winner in Jayson Bukuya. From the Cowboys, there's Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper. At the Storm, Felise Kaufusi is putting his hand up.
And my absolute 'smokey' is the highly regarded Luke Bateman at Canberra. I think he's an enormous talent.
Good luck to my colleague and friend Kevvie Walters. You've got some serious thinking to do.
The toughest sport
Another two players had their season ended by serious knee injuries at the weekend.
All rugby league fans wish Canberra's Dunamis Lui and Manly's Jorge Taufua the best with their recoveries.
Like Greg Inglis, Matt Scott, Sam McKendry, Jamal Idris and others before them in 2017, this sport can be so tough and so ruthless.
I've said it before and I'll say it again now. Players deserve every cent they can get given that their injury fate can be so fickle.
I've got the Brisbane Friday night and Darwin Saturday commentary double this week for Fox League.